I’m a believer in the idea that variety and trying new things can stimulate creative thinking and improve your performance, even if it is not right away. When you are doing, using, learning, teaching, trying, conquering, and even fumbling your way through something new, you will have do things differently than you have previously.

If you’re paying attention, that newness can be the source of creative thinking inspiration to achieve greater things than you’ve previously accomplished.

This phenomenon isn’t universally smart though.


That hit home talking with someone semi-seriously hoping the “newness will lead to stronger creativity” phenomenon would prove itself out in a “what matters” area. By a “what matters” area, I mean a core belief, relationship, or commitment people generally hold incredibly important.

During our conversation, the other individual was talking about implementing changes to something I (and many people) consider a “what matters” area.

While the thought of making changes for the sake of improving performance makes sense on the surface, the changes under consideration would be so dramatic that the “what matters” area could never hope to remain intact. In this case, what was perceived as tinkering around the periphery would be tantamount to blowing up a core principle.

So be careful out there, kids.

Do you really know “what matters” for you?

Have you explored (and do you revisit) what goes on the short list of the most important things in your life? And do you guard those things as if they truly are the most precious things in the world for you?

If so, then be very, very reluctant to make changes to THOSE things in the interests of newness, variety, and a potentially illusory improvement in performance.

Because that may be exactly what you get.

And what you thought mattered for you, will never be the same again. – Mike Brown

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Strategic agility (affiliate link) has come up multiple times recently.

One time was through an audience question during the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association closing keynote I presented on Creating Strategic Impact. Another instance was while curating Brainzooming content on strategic agility for an all-day Creating Strategic Impact workshop we’re delivering for a new client today.

We’ve never formally defined “strategic agility” within the Brainzooming methodology. That may be because my one-word answer to what strategic agility is would be “Brainzooming.” Within our thinking, strategic agility implies knowing and remaining grounded in what matters for an organization (the “brain” part) while moving briskly and flexibly to address it in ways that make sense (the “zooming” part).

In creating a deeper resource on “strategic agility” for our session participants today, however, it’s not all that helpful to say, “Read everything on the blog because it all relates to strategic ability.”

15 Resources on Strategic Agility

Instead, here’s a narrower list of topics we’ve covered to help our Creating Strategic Impact workshop session participants get a handle on strategic agility. And if you’d like to learn more “strategic agility,” it’s fashioned with all of our readers in mind.


Remaining Grounded in What Matters for an Organization

Anticipating What Lies Ahead

Making Quick Decisions

Including People with Strategic Agility

A Quick List for Creating Strategic Impact

Compiling this list suggests both that there’s a lot here, and there’s more to be covered on strategic agility. We’ll add that to the blog topics list, and get back to you on it! In the interim, if you’d really like to go deep on how strategic agility (or what we call Brainzooming) could benefit your team and organization, let us know, and we can talk through ways we’ve helped other organizations on these very topics. – Mike Brown

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I’m in the midst of developing new themes for the Idea Magnets webcast I’m hosting for the American Marketing Association next week (And btw, have you signed up for the webcast yet? If not, here’s where you can register for Idea Magnets).

One theme from an earlier blog post is unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experiences. What got me thinking about these creative thinking experiences was our involvement assembling more than one hundred diverse people at the Kansas City Library for a large-scale brainstorming session. It struck me that this particular group would likely never convene again for creative thinking. As a result, we had great responsibility for making this unique creative experience a success.

Creative Thinking and Unique Experiences

Looking back through my career, I recognized many more unique creative thinking experiences than I’d ever imagined. It doesn’t require one hundred new people brainstorming to create something that’s once-in-a-lifetime.


Consider any of these eleven possibilities:

  1. Invite a well-known speaker or sports figure kick-off a creative thinking session
  2. Have a less well known speaker or expert new to the group to participate
  3. Hold the creative thinking session in place that you’ll likely never be able to go to again
  4. Never have a creative thinking meeting in the same place twice
  5. Create a completely new creative thinking project for the group to tackle
  6. Take on a project that seems too big for the group to pull-off (but it does anyway)
  7. Devise a never-to-be-duplicated series of creative thinking events
  8. Take your creative thinking interactions on the road visiting and including customers
  9. Use sponsorships your organization has to see if they might provide access to unique venues or people
  10. Secure new tools and resources to develop the group’s creative ideas
  11. Turn a wild idea into a reality for your creative team

Amazingly, one of my strategic mentors (and a true example of an idea magnet), whose birthday is today, brought all these unique creative thinking experiences to life during the time I worked with him. While I appreciated them all as they happened, it never struck me until just the past few days that it’s possible that none of them will be repeated again.

Idea Magnets Create Unique Experiences

So in order to better emulate how an idea magnet approaches creativity, I’ll start asking in our client interactions, “What can we do to make this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experience?” – Mike Brown

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You can get six months of work done in a day or you can get a day’s worth of work done over six months. There’s much to be said for getting the work done quickly . . . If you blink too long, you won’t even realize how many creative opportunities you miss. That’s why it’s good to be around people who will make you open your eyes  . . . If you’ve been beating up on someone in person, texting to say, “You’re sorry” is not appropriate. If you’ve been talking with a client by phone, and they email you to give you bad news, that’s not appropriate. You have to match your primary communication channel for the apology or bad news. It’s called “manners” people.

Creative Thinking Thoughts

f-BombDon’t rule out the success formula that involves going to where you want to be and sticking it out longer than anybody else does . . . I bought this paperweight at our local art fair. I carried it all the way home without dropping it even one time . . . Things happen for a reason. Things DON’T happen for a reason, too. They’re just harder to spot as life goes by . . . Thinking of issuing a new policy that Brainzooming is closed between 11 pm and 5 am.

Imagine an x-y chart where the x-axis is “Level of Precision” and the y-axis is “How Particular You Are.” If you’re in the “Very Imprecise” and “Very Particular” quadrant, you’re in for a miserable life, as are the people around you . . . Who put the “Gives Free Advice” sticker on my back?

Success Reflections

A scary “closed blog” test for bloggers? Give them a list of their own titles containing numbered lists and see how many of the lists they can reproduce from memory. I myself would completely fail that test . . . When an attractive divorced woman posts pictures of her ugly kids on Facebook, it’s clear the baby daddy was not living up to his end of the bargain in the looks department . . . If at first you don’t succeed, try plugging the device into a different USB port.

Flattery may get you everywhere, but when you plug it into Google Maps, it doesn’t know what the hell to do with it . . . I don’t plan that far ahead . . . It’s the imperfections that make it seem like people were involved.

Sometimes making the next move is the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s the wrong thing to do. You gotta be the judge . . . History can be a lot more interesting as history than trying to modernize it and pawn it off as nostalgia . . . #IfIWere22, I’d try to be a lot wilder than I was then, but I’m still not sure I’d have it in me. I’d also meet my potential neighbors before renting an apartment and certainly before buying a house . . . That’s all I got. – Mike Brown

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If you start anything important without an objective and a strategy, you’ll wind up SSA.

And you know what SSA means. Or if you don’t know what SSA means, download The Brainzooming Group “Don’t Wind Up SSA” strategic thinking mini-poster.

Keep it nearby whenever you are starting the strategic thinking for something important.


Do Not Wind Up SSA – The Brainzooming Group Strategic Thinking Mini-Poster



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Yesterday’s Brainzooming article discussed strategic analogs. These are organizations that perform comparable functions to your own brand, even if they are in far-removed industries. Strategic analogs are great sources of ideas and learnings to shape your organization’s strategic moves.

Here is a strategic thinking exercise we’ll be incorporating in an upcoming Creating Strategic Impact workshop to help a client identify strategic analogs. It is a two-step process. The first step involves describing what the organization does in a general fashion; the second connects those descriptions to other organizations.

Brainzooming Makes More and Faster Strategic ConnectionsStrategic Thinking Questions to Generalize What Your Organization Does

These questions for step one help generalize what you do to pave the way for identifying possible strategic analogs:.

  • What are the big drivers/buckets of cost in our organization? What are the big revenue sources for us?
  • List the major activities we do as an organization. How would we translate each of them into simple words a grandparent or parent unfamiliar with our company could easily understand?
  • What are the processes associated with why customers actually buy from us?
  • What are the titles of employees who interact directly with customers? What words in their titles provide a more general sense of what we do?
  • If we could see what we do from a low-flying airplane or a car driving by a building, what would be the big processes we’d be able to see and describe?

After using these strategic thinking questions to generalize an organization’s business functions, you’re ready to find other companies who perform one or more of the same activities.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify Strategic Analog Companies

Step two involves listing companies you can look at now and in the future for strategic ideas, cautions, and lessons. Simply by looking through functions you’ve identified in step one, companies you could be tracking for ideas may come to mind quickly. If not, these additional questions can spur new ideas:

  • If we were going to school about the important functions in our business, who (outside our own company) would we want teaching the course?
  • If we had to recreate what we do or completely outsource our operation, who would we ask to handle the most important parts?

Another approach is to use the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise, a standard in the Brainzooming repertoire. It integrates generalizing what you do with finding other comparable examples in one strategic thinking exercise.

Force Yourself to Identify Strategic Analogs

The important thing is not letting yourself off the hook with the old “we are unique, no one does what we do” excuse.

A set of strategic analogs can help you track is tremendously valuable, especially if they are in industries  developing ahead of your industry’s pace.

For example, within the portion of the transportation industry that moved goods, we looked at airlines and phone companies as examples of “formerly regulated, network dependent, yield-management oriented businesses” whose pace was faster. It was helpful to track what was happening because the same developments would come to our industry a few years later.

So get started now creating your own set of strategic analogs. – Mike Brown


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Creating-a-Strategic-ImpactI’m in Dallas today delivering the closing keynote presentation on “Creating Strategic Impact” for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. This launches a string of Brainzooming presentations and workshops during the summer months focused on translating strategic thinking into business results.

Finding Your Brand’s Strategic Analogs

Prepping for one of these upcoming all-day, company-specific strategic thinking workshops, I was talking with our client on customizing the strategic thinking exercises we’ll teach the group.

She said participants could struggle identifying strategic analogs. By strategic analogs, we mean organizations that perform comparable functions to your brand, even in industries that seem far-removed. Our client’s people struggle with seeing connections between its own business and other industries, quickly dismissing external strategic analogs as irrelevant.

That’s not uncommon.

Since we all try differentiating our businesses, it’s easy to start believing your own messaging that NO ONE does what your organization does in the way you do it. That belief shouldn’t preclude you, however, from using strategic analogs. They are helpful in tracking how other businesses deal with comparable issues your brand may not have yet faced.

For example, at the corporate b2b transportation company where I worked, we spent time thinking about how Disneyworld manages time perceptions. Just as Disneyworld makes it seem as if a line moves faster than expected, we faced a similar task in managing transportation time perceptions.

To develop a strategic thinking exercise on identifying strategic analogs, we’ve collected various questions we’ve used to help business leaders think in new ways about what their organizations do. Look for the strategic thinking questions and the exercise in tomorrow’s Brainzooming article.

Strategic Thinking Exercises in a Workshop for Entrepreneurs

If you’re in Kansas City and want to sharpen your strategy skills, I’m teaching a two-hour workshop on Creating Strategic Impact for Entrepreneurs at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County (ECJC). This Brainzooming workshop is Thursday, June 26,2014 from 11 am to 1 pm.

The workshop focus is how entrepreneurs can take advantage of strategic thinking exercises we use for large corporations to efficiently and effectively spend time working ON instead of only working IN their businesses.

We’ll feature ideas for creating strategic impact that work well even if an entrepreneur has to do the strategic thinking and implementation solo or with a very small, and perhaps less experienced, team.

You can learn more about session and register at the ECJC website. Hurry though; space is limited for the workshop. We’ve been fortunate that most previous Brainzooming workshops at ECHC (all focused on social media and content marketing) have sold out, so get your registration completed today! – Mike Brown

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